The post below was originally published in 2011, and it's been updated each year to reflect where I am in my life and the new...Read More
Shut Up & Put Up?
We dino-chow, CrossFit, highly-motivated, big-dreaming, free-thinking types are serious goal setters. Nothing gets us fired up like a goal to complete a Whole30 or to push through every workout dictated by a challenge at our local CrossFit box. And we live to talk about it. Boy, oh boy! do we love to bend our friends’ and families’ ears about our mission: the rules we’ll follow and the way we’ll celebrate when we’ve reached those goals.
But does going public with our intentions make us more likely to succeed?
According to a piece in Newsweek, maybe not. When researchers at New York University ran a study on law students to test their ability to reach their goals, based on whether or not they shared their commitment with others, the results were counter-intuitive.
Although all of the law students were highly committed to a career in law, only those who kept their hopes private actually did the hard work needed to achieve that goal… those who had made their intentions known… failed to follow through with intensity.
Blogger/entrepreneur Derek Sivers also examined the research related to this topic. When I read what he wrote, it kind of made my hair stand on end:
Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen. Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.
You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”
All of which got me thinking about my habits. I do tend to be a blabbermouth when I’m feeling enthusiastic about my goals – but I also mostly do the things I say I’m going to do.
For me, sharing my goals provides two benefits: (1) it makes me feel like I’m drawing my near and dear into my web of excitement; and (2) speaking my goals out loud (or typing them here) makes them seem more real.
As I thought through these patterns I also realized that I usually live with my goals in private for some time before making them public. I poke around the edges of my desires and my intentions to make sure I’m really committed – kind of like when you have a bruise from an altercation with a dumbbell and can’t keep from poking it once in a while to see if it still hurts.
Then, when I’m sure I’m all-in, I announce my plans to the world… and start checking off items on my to-do list to make those plans a reality.
What about you? Does announcing your goals help or hinder you?
Want to read more on this subject? Check out Robert Wicklund and Peter Gollwitzer’s article “Symbolic Self-Completion, Attempted Influence, and Self-Deprecation.” (PDF download)